I had a few different students on my list today. We are working on numbers. We are writing them, counting to 100, and just counting in general.
V and S were on my list, but not J. Then there was a new girl, D, and a new boy, M.
J asked me if he was on my list and I gently told him no. He sunk in his chair a little but didn’t get angry like he has in the past. That alone is a good thing. I worry about him and his anger. He gets so frustrated so easily. That leads to more problems that cause more frustration. The sooner he gets that life doesn’t go the way you want it to, the better he will be. Life goes the way it goes and you’d better adapt to it, rather than the other way around.
D wasn’t here today. I didn’t get to meet her. The teacher was sad about this. She’d done a lot of preparation for our time together and it didn’t happen.
S was playing when I found him. I asked him if he wanted to go work and he didn’t. No problem, that just means more time with the rest on my list. He looked tired too, so I didn’t think he’d work hard today.
I went to M. And asked him if he wanted to work on numbers with me today. I’m glad he agreed. I was concerned that since we hadn’t worked together it would seem strange to him to start now. Plus, I’ve noticed him before. He interests me. He seems a little more intense than most of the kids so I’m curious what is going on in his head.
My instructions said that he was having difficulty counting to 100. So after a warm up of counting other things, I asked him to count to 100 for me. He started out ok, and then when he got to 29, the next number was 60. He gave 60 as the number at least three other times, not including the correct time. I’m not sure what his fascination with 60 is.
When he would get to the end of a group of ten, he would pause and look upwards. I waited for a bit. When the answer didn’t come I’d give him a tip. If we were in the 40s, I’d hold out four fingers and ask what comes after four? He’d say five, and then translated it into fifty. I had to do this several times.
We worked on a few more projects and then I went to get V. Since she had skipped working with me last week I a bit to get her to work with me. Two weeks in a row to skip isn’t a great idea. I asked her to work with me. I didn’t make it a question. I didn’t say “do you want to work with me” She smiled and declined anyway. I pointed out that I didn’t get to work with her last week and I missed her. This helped. Perhaps she works with me to make me happy. She’d rather play. But for me, shell work. Sometimes.
It was a bit of teeth and hair pulling at the start, but by the end she did the assignment perfectly. At the first she was trying to distract me. I’m hip to that now. Then she wasn’t doing it correctly not just a little bit but a lot. I’d ask her to put seven beans in a cup and shed put three, one at a time, but then start grabbing handfuls to finish. She has small hands but it was way more than seven. I pulled them all out and had her count them back to me.
Smiling all the time with her impish smile, she counted it wrong again and differently. I kept trying to redirect her. No dice. So I switched to another task.
It was still numbers, but approaching them in a different way. If a crowbar won’t work, try a pair of pliers.
There was a sheet with hearts and stars and circles on it. There were several, and they weren’t quite in a row. The best way to count them was to mark through them one at a time to make sure something didn’t get missed or counted twice.
V wasn’t hot on that. She wanted to race ahead. I slowed her down and insisted that we do it slowly and told her about how sad the different images (stars, hearts, etc.) are if they don’t get to be invited to the party. They all want to go, and if they don’t get counted, they get left out. This seemed to work for a bit. Then she said something that didn’t make any sense. I asked her again, and essentially what she said was would I miss her if she died.
I said that of course I would miss her. I look forward to working with her every week.
I don’t think she meant died, so much as do I notice her, is she valuable. I get the impression that she’s an afterthought at home. I’ve said several times to her how much I look forward to working with her the next week. I want her to stay in school. School, and reading in particular, is the cure for where she is headed with the family she’s stuck with.
I care for her a lot. And then I can’t care. I can’t get wrapped up in this, because I can’t take her home. I can’t save her. If I get personally involved in the situations of the kids I’d get to tutor I’d need a much bigger house and I’d have to quit my job to care for them because I’d have to adopt them all. I do what I can. I give them the tools to help themselves. And then I have to walk away and try again with someone else. I have to hope that the next teacher gives them a few more tools. And then I have to hope that the students pick them up and use them.
So after that, she redoubled her efforts. She slowed down. She got it correct – all of it. No racing ahead, no being silly. She got it.
I celebrated with her, just as if she were my own child learning how to walk, or talk, or read. She can do all of this. She has it in her. I know it.